On adjusting to a new normal.

I absolutely love where I live. I just got back from walking the full length of the boardwalk, and it was obvious where maintenance had been done, where old boards had been ripped up and replaced by new boards. On the new boards, people had written encouraging messages for those walking the boards. There were messages like, “CONFIDENCE” and “MOVE IT!” and “Happy Day!” and “Have a BEER!” There were reminders that it takes “90 Days” to change a lifestyle and that “You can do it!” It made me smile and made me so glad I ventured outside today.

Not too many are venturing outside lately. Some of us can’t because it’s a serious risk to our health, and some of us are following recommendations and mandates about how to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. I’m not scared, and I’m not really worried about falling victim, but I have been creeped out by how fast my life has been knocked from its normal course. A week ago, there was an emergency faculty meeting at work. I leaned over to a colleague and whispered, “There’s no way we’re shutting down.” Within 48 hours, that’s exactly what we were preparing for.

On Sunday, I went to church with my parents like I always do. Usually, the church is packed from wall to wall and if you don’t arrive at least ten minutes before the scheduled start time, there’s no guarantee you’ll find a seat. I was running late and was worried I’d have to sit away from Mom, but when I arrived, the parking lot was empty. There were only about 100 people in the church, and during his homily, Father recommended we spread out even more. He assured us mass and confession would not be cancelled, but all other church functions basically were. Try as I might, I don’t ever remember a time when churches were closed or masses were cancelled. That really made me think of the post-apocalyptic novels I used to devour (shout out to my homeboy Stephen King) and for just a moment or two, I was scared.

But in times like these, I think it’s really, really important to maintain a healthy amount of perspective. I’m not classified as “high risk,” so the odds of me contracting the Coronavirus are really in my favor. Remote teaching is a new and exciting challenge; I’m blessed to be employed as I am. And if I’m to be indoors for the majority of the upcoming days, that just means I have plenty of time to read and write.

So stay safe, readers. Let’s all be especially kind to each other as we adjust to a new normal. With that in mind, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share a great article (linked here) I read about how to stave off cabin fever while self-isolating – or “social distancing” – during this pandemic. To sum up, here are some ways to beat cabin fever, thanks to Eerie Insurance (the full article is linked here).

  • Break out a good book.
    • May I recommend Her Beautiful Monster, which you can order here. Also, follow me on Goodreads! Currently, I’m TOTALLY ENJOYING Broken Harbor by Tana French. I also check out Belletrist on Instagram for great recommendations. I even signed up for their newsletter. 
  • Start a new hobby.
    • I’m revising my novel and plotting a new one, but I’m also planning a garden, using The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch. As soon as the weather is more consistently conducive, I’m going to get out there and get my hands and knees dirty.
  • Do a puzzle.
    • I have an Elvis jigsaw puzzle I’ve had for years (there’s dust all over the plastic wrapping). I think my dad got it for me for Christmas, so it’s about time to dust it off and put it together. I have another Elvis puzzle that I put together and my dad actually framed for me. It’s hanging in my basement… pretty cool.
  • Engage in some pre-spring cleaning.
    • I could probably just say Spring cleaning because Spring officially arrives on Friday. This is actually at the top of my list. I want to rent out my house while I plan to study abroad in Ireland (a trip that’s been delayed a year). I want to paint and update appliances and purge whatever clutter is keeping my home from feeling cozy and bright.
  • Have a movie and popcorn night.
    • I’m doing this tonight A N D tomorrow night. Tonight, I’m sticking with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. I’ll be eating fish and chips and watching either “The Boondock Saints,” “Angela’s Ashes,” or “The Departed” (which seems like a s t r e t c h, but DAMN do I love Leonardo DiCaprio). Tomorrow will likely be a beloved romantic comedy and food terrible for my figure.
  • Write a letter to touch base with an old friend or family member.
    • I cannot stress enough how important this tip is. Loneliness can have serious, damaging effects on the psyche and the body. I’ve been texting with friends regularly and plan on catching up on emails tonight. I gave up social media for Lent (what timing, eh?), but that doesn’t mean I can’t reach out and keep those vital connections alive and well.
  • Go for a walk.
    • It’s fitting I’d end with this tip since I started this post talking about how I went for a walk. It was nearly 60 degrees by me today, so I made sure to walk along the shore. It helps stave off depression and cabin fever,

Stay healthy, be smart, and I’ll catch ya on the other side, friends.

On fountains.

It’s sweltering in my house. I was dripping sweat earlier. I went outside earlier, to try and benefit from the meager breeze coming from the bay, and my outdoor furniture was wet from a storm that had passed by earlier but I didn’t even care. That’s how hot it is.

I’m not telling you this for sympathy. I think I’m building character.

My life is quiet and small and plain. Again, I’m not telling you this for sympathy or vague reassurance that my life is not the way I perceive it (that just makes someone feel crazy, doesn’t it?). I’m telling you this to illuminate my character, because this realization makes me restless. I always feel like I’m wasting my time and my youth, that I should be doing more, more, more. So I’m taking baby steps to do just that.

On Wednesday, I went to Princeton with one of my best friends. We strolled the campus like we belonged there, despite me being clad in clothes purchased from Old Navy and not J. Crew or Ann Taylor or anywhere else equally as impressive and expensive. Not only that, but an intrusive coffee stain that was too large to be ignored assaulted the lower-half of my shirt in a way that simply screamed I didn’t belong, that I was totally and completely faking it. But I didn’t let my general sloppiness ruin the trip – I’m not that dramatic.

I dragged my patient and impossibly too kind friend to the university to peruse the F. Scott Fitzgerald archives. I anticipated manuscripts and pictures kept under class in a far and quiet corner of the library. I assumed the public had free and easy access to the most personal belongings of a literary genius, but I was so wrong. We had to register, received photo identification cards to enter a restricted part of the library, wash our hands, lock away our belongings, and specifically select which aspects of Fitzgerald’s life we wanted to access. We did this without complaint (which is saying something considering the heat of the day was blistering and my dear, dear friend never intended to spend 150 minutes looking at the personal affects of some dead author), and were shown into a reading room. There, I made plans to visit Great Neck, Long Island for a long weekend (the setting that inspired The Great Gatsby) and to travel to Hackensack, New Jersey (specifically to see the Newman School, which Fitzgerald attended). My friend and I both flipped through a sort of combined scrapbook of Scott and Zelda, compiled by Matthew J. Bruccoli (the only Fitzgerald biographer that matters) and Scottie, Scott and Zelda’s daughter.

Scott’s drama teacher wrote, “Good God, save the soul of the man with the spark!” in reference to Fitzgerald. What a tragedy; what a shame.

We were presented with a facsimile of the manuscript of The Great Gatsby, complete with edits and revisions in Fitzgerald’s own handwriting, not to mention the entire manuscript was handwritten. I nearly cried.

We read letters from Zelda to Scott, which chronicled the beginnings of their relationship, as well as the more tumultuous aspects of the courtship and marriage. I compiled a list of Zelda’s best quotes.

  • … it’s so easy, and believing is much more intelligent
  • And still I’m so mighty happy — It’s just sort of a “thankful” feeling — that I’m alive and that people are glad I am
  • There’s nothing to say — you know everything about me, and that’s mostly what I think about. I seem always curiously interested in myself, and it’s so much fun to stand off and look at me …
  • … something always makes things the way they ought to be …
  • I love you sad tenderness — when I’ve hurt you — That’s one of the reasons I could never be sorry for our quarrels — and they bothered you so — Those dear, dear little fusses, when I always tried so hard to make you kiss and forget
  • … It seems as if there’s no new wisdom — and surely people haven’t stopped thinking — I guess morality has relinquished its claim on the intellect — and the thinkers think dollars and wars and politics — I don’t know whether it’s evolution or degeneration
  • To be afraid, a person has either to be a coward or very great and big
  • … free to sit in the sun and choose the things I like about people and not have to take the whole person
  • It is odd that the heart is one of the organs that does repair itself

I loved the eccentric, charming and dangerous and alarming details I learned about their love, like how Zelda consulted a Ouija board, and how she blamed Scott for her mental illness but firmly believed he could cure her.

We read Scott’s letters with a painstaking clarity, as we knew of the end he didn’t see coming. It was heartbreaking, really.

I decided the goal is to  write the last chapter of my next book in the Nassau Inn, to truly channel the passion and vibrancy and tragedy of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I found some places I’d like to visit in France, places Fitzgerald went to and found some kind of inspiration, whether for writing or living large.

We wandered around campus for a while longer, sneaking into classrooms, disrupting tour groups, and feeling – even if for just a little while – that grand things were still possible for us.

We ventured into the cathedral on campus and a Starbucks and a book store to beat the heat.

We traveled to Asbury Park for some live music and great company. It was a great day, the kind summers are made of. I intend to have more like them.

I was inspired to write the following short story. Enjoy!

FOUNTAINS
by Mandi Bean

Carlos knew that the equator separated the globe into northern and southern hemispheres, and Carlos also knew that the farther south a person traveled, the hotter the weather became. However, Carlos could testify to the fact, and possibly even prove, that the farther west a person traveled, the same phenomenon occurred. He had lived on the eastern shore of New Jersey his entire life and could say without hesitation, could say with near absolute certainty, that the middle of the state was a burning, boiling wasteland in July – the most uncomfortable Summer month to begin with – and that it served no real purpose. Carlos had traveled west at the request of his fashionable, trendy girlfriend and now regretted it something fierce.

They were traipsing about the campus of Princeton University so that his girlfriend could admire the rich history and breathtaking architecture and blah, blah, blah. It was ninety-three degrees and Carlos was miserable. He felt damp and disgusting in places he didn’t even know could sweat. Still, he took it all in stride, trying to keep his girlfriend happy and blissfully unaware of his discomfort. He said nothing as they walked innumerable staircases to gawk at old buildings and open fields that meant something to someone somewhere, sure, but that person was not Carlos. His mood dangled precariously between “thoughtfully quiet” and “crankily homicidal,” and he offered his girlfriend only interested smiles as she prattled on and on about tradition and excellence and whatever.

Carlos only perked up as they neared the center of the sprawling campus. There was a pool, six inches deep at the most, with a fountain at its center, an impressive, enigmatic modern sort of structure spouting water. Carlos took his girlfriend’s hand and rushed towards it, the way someone might rush towards a miraculous pool while stranded in a desert. But this pool and fountain was no mirage; children splashed here and there, supervised by patient adults who smiled and nodded with a calculated, weary sort of encouragement. Carlos reached the pool’s edge, where wide, flat stone steps led down to the water. He was smiling wide, with a youthful exuberance, and he turned to his girlfriend. “I’m going in,” he stated and sat down to remove his shoes and socks.

His girlfriend offered a sweet smile, totally enchanted by Carlos’ juvenile need to cool and comfortable, by his childish ambitions. He was a beautiful young man with dark features that made him appear to be super intellectual, but in reality, he was nothing of the sort. But his girlfriend, equally as beautiful, was not disturbed by Carlos’ lack of desire for education and all things brainy. It kept her in check, kept a balance in the relationship. “Go right ahead,” she smiled. “I’ll wait here.”

Carlos paused and looked up at her. “You’re not coming in? This heat is brutal.”

She shook her head and seated herself beside Carlos. “It’s hot, but I’m okay. You go in, though. I can’t tell you’re dying to.” She leaned against him for a moment to kiss his cheek. That was all the permission Carlos needed, and he took off, splashing with reckless abandon to reach the fountain at the center. That spewing, falling water was the most efficient way to get cool. He passed the laughing, shrieking children and paused at the base of the fountain. The water fell on him in the most refreshing way and he was content to simply exist, it simply be in a world where water was free to fall where it may. What a time to be alive, what with fountains and pools to keep the intense summer heat at bay. He closed his eyes and attempted to wash away the sweat and sourness of the July sun.

After a few moments, he opened his eyes and leveled his gaze. He was surprised to find another adult, another wanderer about campus, engaging in the same activity. She was gorgeous, and Carlos also noted the way the woman had been equally as daring, had strode in the same way Carlos had, not caring for the onlookers or any kind of judgments. There was only the oppressive heat, and the refreshing relief of the water, roaring down from the fountain and tinkling as it reached the pool surface. They both appreciated the opportunity, had seized it, and now stood breathless, together in their choices and ideology, but separate in their strangeness to the other.

Carlos breathed a simple “hey.”

The woman nodded, and kicked water up at Carlos. That was her greeting; that was it. Aside from the playful smile, she had offered nothing, not even her name. But Carlos was game. He returned the splash. In a matter of moments, Carlos and the woman were doing their best to drown each other. Their raucous laughter and innocent challenges drowned out that of the children and even the most dutiful of supervising parent stole a glance at the two grown adults making complete asses of themselves in the fountain on the campus of Princeton University.

But, as do all things in life, the splashing lost its appeal and became old and tired. Carlos looked back to his girlfriend and found her reading (there was always a book in her over sized bag). He waved goodbye to the gorgeous, wild and free woman he had spent the last ten minutes with. Without really thinking about it, Carlos returned to the studious, safe and responsible woman waiting for him out of the water. He supposed that was the way it was supposed to be, that for every soul willing to get lost at sea, there had to be another anxiously waiting on shore.

As he came nearer, dripping wet and breathless and smiling, Carlos’ girlfriend looked up and barked a laugh. “Am I glad you drove,” she teased, “because you would never ever get into my car like that.”

Carlos bent to swiftly kiss her before she could protest or squirm away.

fountains

 

On battling bullshit.

newyearnewme

It’s the end of another year. We’re all preparing for the onslaught of “new year, new you” messages and postings, and I know the majority think such verbiage is cliched bullshit. I was such a believer until I sat down to draft this blog post.

The endings and beginnings of life often prompt us to be introspective, and as a writer, I’m hopelessly narcissistic, so at this time of year, I do nothing but think about myself, talk about myself, and write about myself. I think we’re all allowed some selfish moments if they are to truly be reflective and endeavor us to be greater.

There are lots of things I hate about myself. One of the more depressing aspects of society is that we all can do this, and that we all have done it, and that we all will most likely continue to do it, and that is list our failings. My favorite kind of humor is of the self-deprecating kind, and my favorite kind of gathering is a pity party. I’m not revealing these less than appealing parts of myself to elicit sympathy or to begin to construct a false kind of humility to make my self seem more creatively eccentric. Hand to God, I’m just trying to let you know that I get it, that I understand, and that I’ve been there too. There are days where I absolutely and unequivocally hate myself.

But there are also days where I’m not so bad. There are days where I am downright awesome and a sheer pleasure to be around. In 2016, I am going to acknowledge more of those days. And in that same state of mind, I’d like to share my favorite thing about myself. What makes Mandi Bean worth anything is my childlike optimism. I could list all the disappointments of the past year, but I could also list all the times I’ve been pleasantly surprised, when I’ve fallen in love – yet again – with this spinning globe, with humanity, and with the endless opportunities for romance and adventure this crazy, miraculous life offers. As such, I am totally buying into the “new year, new me” bullshit. I will be a newer, happier, and healthier version of myself in 2016. Those who roll their eyes in derision and/or disbelief are free to do so; that’s their right. But as for me, with a smile and a deep breath and a pleasantly unfamiliar sense of determination, here is how I am going to make 2016 my banner year:

  1. I will, as mentioned previously, focus on the positives. Every day, I will find something to be grateful for and I will put it in writing, so I can’t lie to myself later.
  2. I aim to lose 60 pounds by December 31, 2016. I’m the maid of honor for my friend’s wedding, so there’s extrinsic motivation, but more importantly, I want to be beautiful. I want my outside to match my inside, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve got going on in there.
  3. I am going to be a writer. I’ll update this blog faithfully, market my published work, work harder to get my second manuscript published, and seriously work on a third.

Three promises to myself. I can do this. I will do this. I will forgive myself when I stumble along the way, and I will encourage others endeavoring to become the best version of themselves.

Here’s to a happy, healthy New Year.

xoxo

newyear2016

On knowing you’re alive and here for a reason, and knowing that it’s okay not to know why just yet.

It’s been almost two months since the last time I posted an entry.  I’m ashamed and feeling guilty about it because I always promised myself that writing – and the promotion of my writing – would be a priority, but here I am, placing it upon a burner far in the back, which may not even light, because I have become consumed with work and its corresponding extracurricular activities.  I never thought I would delay a dream for a boring adult responsibility like employment.  I never wanted to become boring or sell out.  The question then becomes why am I doing it?  I think it’s time to completely buck convention and go utterly transcendental.  This summer, I plan to walk the entire eastern coast of the state of New Jersey using the East Coast Greenway.  I was inspired by Thoreau, Emerson and Cheryl Strayed, author of her memoir Wild, which has been turned into a film of the same name starring Reese Witherspoon.  Lately, I’ve been feeling like I need to get away to figure myself out.  I became a stranger in the sense that I’ve been letting secondary elements control my emotions and ultimately make my decisions.  As a result, I don’t exactly know what I want or who I am, and feeling lost is an awful and terrible feeling.  I feel like a phony – like an imitation of an imitation – and I worry those I love and admire are getting sick of my narcissistic shenanigans.

I’ve got to get back to my basics; back to writing.

WRITING PROMPT #19: A man comes to believe that he is an emissary of God when he survives a plane crash in which all other passengers are killed.

Brian Johnson was laying upon a gurney, being rushed along the tarmac to the waiting ambulance.  Its back doors were open, and its lights were flashing soundlessly in the frigid crispness of the December evening.  Brian saw the distance to the ambulance shorten as he was gently jostled over the smooth pavement, rocked into a soothing kind of trance.  He was eager to become numb and absent because after all, it had been one hell of a day.  No one wakes up in the morning expecting to be the sole survivor of a plane crash, particularly one that smashes against the ground on the runway of the desired destination, so close to home.

The flight had been en route to Atlantic City, landing at the small airport.  Passengers had been composed of family members traveling to reunite with other family members for the impending holiday.  Brian had been one of the few singletons, and as such, he had been crammed into a row with a family just trying to survive.  Luckily, he had the seat nearest the window.  Beside him was a precious and precocious brunette who was about four years old.  Next to her was a harried-looking mother with an infant cradled in her arms, and beside the mother was the exhausted father who also cradled an infant in his arms; twins.  A small smile twitched Brian’s lips as he observed the family, quiet and tired, not talking to one another, and seemingly blissfully happy to be seated and finally ready to go.  The little girl was bouncing a teddy on her knee, singing some nonsense song Brian had once known but had long forgotten upon leaving the playground so many years ago.

Some time after takeoff, Brian had adorned his ear buds, cranked the volume on his iPod, and fallen asleep.  He was terrified of flying and only boarded planes when there was absolutely no other alternative, so he only survived when he slept through it.  Surviving a flight had taken on a completely different meaning when Brian awoke to terrified screams.  His eyes shot open and he savagely ripped the ear buds from his ears.  Everything was shaking wildly; it was the worst turbulence Brian had ever experienced.  He had only ever seen it in cliched horror films.  He was looking this way and that, but found no answers or comfort, only faces grotesquely contorted into unadulterated terror.  The oxygen mask suddenly fell before his face and Brian knew this was it.  It was all ending and he wasn’t entirely sure how that knowledge made him feel.  He turned to the family beside him, saw the mother and father enclose their infant children, and saw the little girl squeezing the teddy, sobbing.  Without thinking about it, he encircled her in his arms and felt relieved when her tiny hands grabbed onto the fabric of his shirt.

And that was all he remembered.

Brian regained conscious on the ground.  Everything ached and burned, and he only saw things in blurred images.  He could smell smoke but he couldn’t hear anything over the sound of his own breathing.  For an irrational moment, he wondered if he was under water.  His legs and back felt wet, but then there were people standing above him, looking down with shocked faces.  He was trying to tell them that he felt weird, and that he couldn’t hear, but they couldn’t seem to hear either.  They went about their business as if he wasn’t screaming.  He was lifted up and onto the gurney and he was being ushered to the waiting ambulance.

As Brian rolled right along, his head flopped to the side and he saw the sheets, the countless sheets covering the countless, mutilated bodies of his fellow passengers.  One such sheet had a charred teddy bear beside it and Brian knew he should be dead.  He should have died.  But he didn’t, and Brian considered what that might mean.  Maybe he had been spared.  He thought back to late nights spent with his father on their screened-in back porch, where his father smoked like a chimney and pontificated at length about religion and politics and women and family and life and death and everything in between.  He had once told his son that God had a plan for everyone and that everything happened for a reason.  His father claimed that’s what the scientists really meant when they insisted that for every action, there was an equal and opposite reaction.

So the plane had gone down, and Brian was still breathing.  What was God’s plan?  Was Brian supposed to value life in a way he hadn’t?  Because to be frank, he thought he had been living life to the fullest and if there was some part of it he wasn’t quite getting, then Brian thought the Big Man didn’t have to be so dramatic; a little subtlety never hurt anyone.

How to explain the dead little girl and the burned teddy bear.  What was the rationale behind that?  Then again, maybe that was why Brian had been spared, to figure it out.  Maybe Brian was supposed to tell the world about the family beside him and their love to the very end and that protective instinct.  Maybe such a story would inspire others, give them hope, and help Brian from feeling guilty.

But maybe it was just fucking chaos.  Slipping in and out of consciousness, it was hard for Brian to tell.

planecrash

On clinging to the past.

On Monday of this past week, I found the moon.  It was fat, full, gluttonous, and bright.  I have a picture to prove it.

moon

I have another resolution for this relatively new year: to be as artistic in possible in all that I do.

I deposited my second royalty check – $23.22.  From October 29th to December 31st, I have made $95.40.  I am not, and have never been, a “numbers person.”  I am not sure if this means I am doing well, average, or poor.  All I know is that I want to keep writing, and I suppose that is the most important thing.  I did little to no writing this week, which is possibly why this blog post is so scattered and superficial.

I am convinced that in a former life, I was happily married to Ricky Ricardo.

Running in the wind is romantic and freeing.  Running in the wind and the rain is stupid.

There is a dry, red, and raw patch of skin on my hand between my thumb and pointer finger.  When I stick the cap on the opposite end of the pen, the plastic irritates the area.  I have icky winter skin.  I am over the cold, bitter weather.

I am sick of being tired.

I am envious of Winona Ryder – or at least her hair, especially when it is short.  I remember feeling similarly after seeing, “Girl, Interrupted.”  I watched “Reality Bites.”  I liked the tone of it and I do sincerely miss the 1990s somewhat.  I really am a fan of the earthy, sloppy fashion that was considered chic.  I would like to bring that style back, but am unsure if I would be able to do so single-handedly, and am equally unsure if there would even be any other willing participants; I might have no other choice than to embark on a lone wolf fashion revolution.  Either way, I am going to dress and style my hair accordingly – I am excited to buy new clothes once I lose the weight.  Manufacturers really do not make fashionable habiliments for larger people.

winona90srevival290srevival

I am mostly excited for Spring Break and vacation in Florida.  I called my Aunt Kim tonight and squared away the details.  Dad and his friend Andy fitted my car with new struts and fixed a leak that had to do with the transmission.  I am constantly making a mental list of what I want to do before leaving.  Lately, the trip has been all that I have been thinking about.  I do not mind going alone, but Mom is thinking about coming along, and that does not upset me at all.

struts

Sometimes, when I wash my face, I make the water too hot and steam rises up from the sink basin in the bathroom, and the water burns my hands, and opens my pores so wide that they sizzle.  Once I was worried because for a brief moment, I could not get the cold tap to turn.  Eventually I did, and it made me think of that scene from “My Cousin Vinny” when Marissa Tomei and Joe Pesci are ironically analyzing the dripping faucet that is off-screen as litigators would in court.  Then I wonder how a casting director could match Pesci with Tomei (or vice versa).  I worry that such wondering makes me shallow.  Am I shallow?  Am I a bad person?

What if I do not find romance after my teeth are straightened and after I’ve lost the weight?  Will I have to conclude the defect is not my physical appearance, but in my personality, my very being?

I am going to take up painting this summer.

I need to write.

My last baby tooth, which never fell out, was pulled on the last day of February.  So long, Little Mandi.  The very last tangible remnant of my childhood was violently yanked from me.  It was for the best – it was causing an infection and discoloration – but I was sad to see it go.  I am reluctant to grow up and relinquish my sometimes irrational passions, and I am unwilling compromise between responsibility and desire; I don’t wanna.  But then again, I am getting braces.  Maybe it all works out and I will never have to escape my adolescence.

babytooth

The way to blast blubber this week was to give up extreme thinking.  I set a realistic goal of losing two pounds, and I lost 1.8 pounds; just two ounces shy.  I have lost 18 pounds total since beginning dieting and exercising and I am getting closer to my goal.  Chipping away little by little is okay; I am seeing results without being perfect or extreme, and that is both a very important and difficult lesson to learn.

On being a Debbie Downer and constantly trying to avoid it.

So my pedometer arrived and I have been using it fairly regularly.  I do not believe it is beneficial to my weight loss because I did not lose any weight this week.  In fact, I gained two ounces.  I overate last weekend and blamed it on the Super Bowl but really, I am just glutton, both for food and for punishment.  I ate so much that weekend that I felt physically uncomfortable and incredibly guilty for the rest of the week.  I fear I get some perverse pleasure from letting myself down.   I also believe that I almost enjoy spreading myself too thin so that I am miserable, like I believe that playing the martyr actually suits me.

AnimatedLostFound

When I began this entry, I was incensed because I thought I had lost the aforementioned pedometer while I was shopping at the local grocery store, lost forever to be trampled upon in crowded aisles or crushed under the rubber tires that constantly plague the somewhat dangerous parking lot.  I found it, as my mom predicted I would, in the snow near my car in the driveway, slowly icing over.  I am relieved to have found it, as I paid for it, but I’m hopeless – I am forever losing items of varying importance.  On my better days, I attribute my scattered brain to my creative nature and on my worse days, I concede that I am a careless moron and nothing more.  This past week, I am saddened to report that I lived through mostly worse days and few, if any, better days.

Sometimes, I think it is a wonder I completed a novel because I am so lazy, I feel that I never truly finish anything and that I am never truly prepared.  Instead, I settle and rationalize and excuse.

debbie-downer-1

But I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer; time for some positivity.

Even though I did not lose any weight, I did not really gain any weight, either.  Two ounces is nothing and really, the damage should have been much worse but I have kept up and even increased my exercise regimen.  There is an excellent chance that I am building muscle which weighs more than fat.  Also, without being too graphic for any readers of the male persuasion, some strictly feminine biological factors did come into play.  Maybe that’s why I’ve totally been all about the self-loathing.

It snowed this weekend and the result was beautiful, absolutely beautiful.  Running (really I was jogging, but let’s not ruin the moment or the sentiment with details, shall we?) uphill through the snow against the wind is really empowering.  I almost enjoyed running.

snow

Though this week’s way to blast blubber was a reminder that housework is NOT exercise, I decided to do both.  I followed my routine and cleaned my room.  I put new sheets on the bed and hung portraits of my male, musician idols above my bed.  I should have cleaned the mirror and vacuumed but again, I’m lazy.

I am excited to announce that I have had something of a breakthrough concerning my second novel; the young lover that the musician’s wife becomes involved with is really going to be an up and coming serial killer.  I am fascinated by human beings who seem to completely lack an inherent, intrinsic and somewhat sacred respect for human life.  I believe the addition of that plotline will allow me to flex my characterization muscle and also add a needed complexity to the theme.  I want to focus on the fear of aging and the fear of death, and the parallel between those fears and youth, beauty and the false accompanying notion of invincibility.  Adding a serial killer – a tangible monster – as the antithesis of both is an intriguing dynamic.

serialkiller

At least, I think so.  🙂

On celebrating being happy.

Another week over, another four pounds lost!  I literally could not be happier right now!  All the denial and all of the grumbling are paying off!  I am not sure where that leaves me in the standings of the competition at work, but honestly, who cares?  I don’t need the money if I lose the weight!  Also, I’ve purchased an Omron HJ-112 Pocket Pedometer, as suggested by the LA Times article, “52 ways to leave your blubber.”  Ideally, the average human being should get up to between 10,000 and 15,000 steps a day.  I think I can meet the goal, especially when I start introducing brief intervals of jogging to my walking regimen.

pedometer

This week’s theme seemed to be self-improvement as I found myself at the dentist, too.  It had been the first time I’d been to the dentist in well over a decade.  The sterile smell of the office clashed terribly with the sleek, technologically advanced atmosphere; for a moment, I could have believed I was walking back to a tanning bed rather than a leather chair.  I had a full set of x-rays taken and my teeth were cleaned.  Good news: minimal tartar buildup and only one cavity!  I also can have braces put on that cannot be seen even though I don’t qualify for Invisalign.  Bad news: I have a baby tooth that never fell out so that has to be pulled, and the dentist mentioned removing my wisdom teeth, but wants to wait until I meet with the orthodontist because there is a slight chance that might not be necessary.  All in all, the appointment was not as horrifying or painful as I had imagined.

dentist

I also purchased a car this week!  It is a 2002 Chrysler Sebring convertible.

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It runs great, the heat works, and the inspection is good until May of 2014!  The airbag light started coming on today, but my dad (who has been a mechanic for years and years) does not think it’s anything to worry about.  I hope he’s right; I tend to have bad luck with cars, as previous posts can testify to.  Last night, my family and I – minus my little brother who is at the age where he would rather be with friends than family – celebrated my new car at Charlie Brown’s Steakhouse.  It was a lot of fun and the food was delicious!  It is nights like those that help to remind me how blessed I am to be surrounded with love and support, and reignite my desire to be a part of such a loving support system for others.  That sentiment goes hand in hand with the Gospel reading from Mass, which I attended earlier today:

love

My friend Eric and his mom enjoyed my novel!  Eric sent me a message to let me know, which was sweet.

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I have compiled a list of local booksellers to begin visiting in April, when the weather is warmer and the school year is winding down.  I want to set up book signings and readings and whatnot.  Wish me luck!

Love and be loved.  Love and life are all that matter. ❤

On being a bombshell.

Another two pounds lost; I am ecstatic!  I am celebrating personal achievement because when it comes to “The Biggest Loser” competition at work, I am far from being in the lead.  Rumor has it that someone lost seven pounds, and that another participant completed a four-day fast to boost his or her start.  I am not that competitive; winning would be wonderful, but if I lose every week, I will be happy.  The competition is more of a motivating tool than anything else.  The monetary spoils of victory will have no value when measured against how I look, how I feel, and the confidence I will gain.  Although, I might just be saying all of that to make myself feel better about my inevitable loss – only time will tell.

Whenever I mail anything, which is not all that often in this digital age, I am always reminded of that scene in the movie “Grease,” where Marty is sending a letter to her boyfriend in the Marines, so she sprays the exceedingly feminine stationary with her perfume.  Personally, I believe that to be a wonderfully romantic idea.  Just the other day I found myself in the local post office, sending a copy of my novel to a friend and included a short letter.  I penned a heartfelt note using a ballpoint pen filled with royal blue ink onto fashionable stationary, with a black and white paisley boarder around its edges and matching envelopes.  As I licked the edge of the envelope flap to seal it, I thought about what a sensual, intimate gesture it would be leave just the tiniest trace of lipstick around an edge; the faintest clue of my physical existence.  Naturally, this train of thought led me to the scene from the aforementioned movie, and I wondered if lipstick on the envelope and perfume lightly but noticeably scenting the stationary would work, or if the subtlety of it all would be lost on a man.  Do they notice such things?  Would the thought and planning that went into such a gesture be used to evaluate it?  Does anyone ever truly receive back the effort he or she put into an endeavor?  I think it’s a wildly romantic idea; there’s real optimism in the belief that a complete and total return of an emotion exists.

That makes me think of the fictional character Jay Gatsby from the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I just ended reading the book with my sophomore students and it is officially my favorite novel of all time.  Its themes and romantic imagery and brutal honesty, with its undeniable cynicism watered down by the an almost untraceable strong hope, reminds me that I am inadequate as a writer (but who isn’t when a novel like The Great Gatsby is the novel against which all others are measured?) and that, like Gatsby, I am terribly lonely and clinging to memories from years ago, formulating schemes based on those ghosts of my pasts and inevitably setting myself up for disappointment and devastation.  That is not to say that I am depressed and delusional – just hopelessly romantic, no matter what the cost.  Some call this naivety, but I believe there is an honorable and dignified kind of stoicism in still believing in the good of people and the power of love, as trite and cheesy and impossible as it may seem.

I did not intend for this entry to be so “deep” (for lack of a better word), but it is a beautifully and bitterly bright Sunday morning and I am on my second cup of coffee.  I feel much like a validated author this morning.  I think the cozy, intellectually stylish sweater I am wearing helps, too.  All I need are thick-framed glasses and all the time in the world, and I could be the perfect picture of writer.  Appearance is half the battle, after all.

Speaking of, the goal of this week’s way to blast my blubber was to “adopt an avatar.”  This goal was remarkably effortless to meet because I have been adopting an avatar every day of my life.  I never see myself for who or what I am, but for who or what I would love to be: a bohemian, artistic intellectual, with the matching wardrobe and accessories.  However, as I become more of a woman and less of a girl, I am tending to gravitate more towards elegance and an understated kind of drama.  I have all of these plans, hopes, and dreams about my future.  I want to be in love with a completely brilliant, brooding, and eccentric man.  I want to be thin with straight, white teeth.  I want to be a wildly successful writer.  All of these wants (that are almost suffocating desires) are within my reach if I am willing to put in the work.  I need to go out more so I can meet new people.  I need to call the dentist and schedule an appointment.  I need to count my calories, keep a food journal, and exercise.  I need to promote my book.  These aforementioned needs are most often rationalized away, pushed aside, and delayed in their realization because currently, I am frustratingly lazy and unfortunately unmotivated.  I watch too much television.  I play too much computer solitaire.  I eat too much.  I sleep too much.  I don’t write enough.  I don’t read enough.

If I want to be a bombshell, I should be a bombshell.  So, my new avatar that I will use to motivate and inspire me on my way to weight loss and creative success, will simply be known as “Bombshell,” and she looks a little something like:

gwenidol

bombshell2

bombshell1

bombshell

Whining and seeking pity are wasteful; a waste of time and a waste of words, which are my two most precious resources.  I need to be about it.  There are no excuses left.  I did earn a full-time teaching job.  A company did publish my book.  My life’s pieces are not going to come together of their own accord and produce a pretty, little picture.  I have to engage my own destiny and put the puzzle pieces in their proper positions.

This is not a revelation or a realization; it is only restating common sense.  I want to live up to the compliments I receive.  The psychology teacher said I looked great, that she could tell I was dieting and exercising, and that it was paying off.  I cannot be a fraud; I have to put in the work.

A respected English teacher complimented my writing.  She said my voice was strong and entertaining, and that my attention to detail was strong.  A math teacher asked me to sign her copy and I was too touched to write anything spectacular.  I hope it was what she wanted.

If I want to be a bombshell, then I should be a bombshell.

If you want to be a bombshell, then you should be a bombshell.

On the evil in the world.

I had the worst timing today.  I went for my usual four-mile walk and was really looking forward to a relaxing swim in the pool when vicious thunderstorms roll through.  Exiting the pool, I hop in the shower and the lights flicker and dim.  My mom always tells me I’m bad at planning and I have a sinking suspicion that she may be ont0 something.

Like tonight, for example: one of my closest friends and one of the most influential people in my life is moving to Boston in a week.  I wanted to send her off in style – with a big, sobbing crowd of friends at her favorite bar.  It’s not going to happen; everyone has an excuse as to why they cannot attend and it infuriates me.  I know my friend impacted their lives just as much, if not more so, than she impacted mine and yet I am the only one willing to travel to spend time with her.  I feel like this situation happens to me time and time again, and it’s disheartening because I’m really starting to believe that I never get back as much as I put in regarding any of the relationships I have, which at the current moment, are restricted to friends and family.

I would punch a toddler for a romantic relationship, by the way.  I’d be a catch … for the most part.  I know I’m dramatic, juvenile and stunted, but I also know that I’m passionate, fiercely loyal and a decent person.  Maybe it’s my physical appearance; I’m working on getting my teeth fixed so I don’t look like Sloth from that movie, “The Goonies.”  I’m working on slimming down, too.  Other than that, though, I think I’m sitting pretty – pun intended.  I think men find me attractive, but know that they shouldn’t.  Is that weird?

I just want to love – which I do freely, to the point where it breaks my own stupid heart – and to be loved in return; really loved with equal force.

By the way, I tried to sketch today. I’m really terrible at it, and thereby have no patience for it. Hopefully this attitude can be altered or improved by Tuesday.

PROMPT: “Well, if you could accuse anybody of being downright evil, it would be him.”

PIECE:  “Well, if you could accuse anybody of being downright evil, it would be him.”  Kelly placed his amber bottle of chilled beer back onto the wooden bar, sighing contemplatively as she did so.  She understood she had just released a heavy statement into the atmosphere and wondered if it would just fall flat and leave only silence, or if Isaac would help it along by adding more words and more breath, keeping it afloat in the intimate space between the two.

Isaac’s eyes were swollen and red around the rims from intense bouts of both drinking and crying.  His fiancee had been murdered about six months ago and the trail was finally underway.  The perpetrator of the crime was his own brother, Eliot, who claimed self-defense.  Eliot wanted the jury to believe that Cassandra had a violent, manic fit and attacked Eliot out of the blue, leaving him with no choice but to shoot her in the back.  Eliot only disposed of the body improperly to save his brother from the pain of discovering his fiancee’s outburst and dead body – clearly, he was not trying to cover up the crime.  He swore!  He had to be telling the truth.

But he wasn’t; Isaac’s brother had been having an affair with Cassandra and when she had wanted to come clean to Isaac, Eliot had killed her.  Eliot was the emotionally unstable individual who had a sudden outburst with devastating consequences.  Both sides had been presented in the opening arguments, and testimony was to begin the next day, as the prosecution called their first witness – the medical examiner.  Today had been hard enough for Isaac.  He didn’t think he had it in him to sit through a meticulous and cold description of how his beloved had died, and what her watery grave had done to her beautiful, graceful body.

Kelly was Isaac’s cousin.  She had sat patiently by his side, holding his hand and turning a blind eye to his decidedly emasculating sobs and open displays of weakness.  It had been her idea to come to the local watering hole to handle it like men; to drink and grunt and feel better in the morning.  She had offered the assessment of Eliot’s character as comfort.  She didn’t want Isaac feeling guilty for being emotional.  There was only one person who should feel guilty and that was the monster that was Eliot.  She had wanted to convey all of this to her favorite cousin, but as she cleared her throat to speak and Isaac rolled his red, dead eyes to her, she lost her confidence.  The planned speech that was tender and inspirational was reduced to a single sentence.

As if that single sentence could change anything.  As if that single sentence could bring Cassandra back.  As if that single sentence could bring Eliot back.  As if that single sentence could bring Isaac back.

It did none of those things.  It did nothing.  Isaac nodded, released a broken sob, sniffed and drank deeply from his own bottle.

On Hamlet and aging.

Today was a wonderfully lazy Saturday. I had a huge breakfast late in the day, after grading four classes worth of work and applying to five jobs. I went for a walk around the neighborhood to enjoy the sunshine and breezes and got some writing done that wasn’t prompted, but came from my very own mind. Rather than completing a prompt, I’m going to share what I wrote with you, and would love for any kind of feedback or criticism you’d be willing to offer.

Enjoy!

🙂

Brian knew with certainty that he loved Melissa, but he didn’t know what to do with her. Brian didn’t even know if he had to do anything with her necessarily, but things had been stagnant for a while now. A better adjusted man would use the word “comfortable” instead of “stagnant.” With his elbows pointed and digging into his thighs, Brian dropped his head into his hands and deflated his lungs. He hated not knowing how he felt because it kept him from knowing what to do. He hated feeling like he had to do something. In his younger years, Brian had found his restlessness romantic, but now it was tiresome and depressing.
There was a loud and impatient knocking on the door. With his eyes closed, Bruce could easily see Penelope’s thin and bony and pronounced knuckles rapping against the wood. The wooden beaded bracelet she always wore on her right hand – her dominant hand, her knocking hand – would roll back and forth, very slightly, across her soft, smooth, pale skin. Every now and again, Brian would catch Penelope wince and curse under her breath because the common bracelet she loved so much would catch on the fine hair on her wrist and tug mercilessly. A hundred and one times, Brian suggested she move the piece of jewelry to her left hand, the hand she rarely used, so it could just sit and not pinch her at random moments. Penelope had nodded to be kind and to show she had heard, but she didn’t move the bracelet. Penelope was stubborn, but also loved the bracelet and could handle the pain.
Brian knew Penelope loved him like she loved the bracelet, but he wasn’t sure how that particular knowledge made him feel.
“Let’s go. Are you ready?” Penelope called. She sounded irritated.
Brian’s eyes popped open. “Yeah, I’m coming,” he answered. He rose to his feet amid popping joints, an auditory and physical reminder that he was getting old. Hell, he’d been getting old for years. For the first time, Brian considered the possibility he was old. He grabbed his dinner jacket that was hanging on a nearby chair and walked from the bedroom. He turned off the light as he left.

Well? What do you think?

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